Toy Recalls Down, But Injuries Still Too High: CPSC

The agency's new report says about 181,500 children under 15 years of age were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments for toy-related injuries in 2010.

In time for the 2011 holiday shopping season that retailers hope to see ignited next week, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission released a report on safety-related toy recalls and toy-related injuries. CPSC said stronger federal rules are causing recalls to drop and are restoring consumers' confidence in the safety of toys.

New toy safeguards include the world's lowest lead content and lead paint limits; a limit on the use of certain phthalates; converting voluntary toy standards into mandatory ones; requiring third-party testing and certification of toys designed or intended primarily for children 12 and younger; closing in on new limits for cadmium in toys; and working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to track shipments in transit from other countries to increase seizures of dangerous imported toys.

The agency said these, "along with safety-conscious steps taken by many toy makers and sellers," resulted in a sharp drop in recalls. There were 34 toy recalls in fiscal year 2011, 46 in fiscal year 2010, 50 in fiscal year 2009, and 172 in fiscal year 2008. Toy recalls for lead in 2011 fell to just four, down from 19 in 2008.

"Strong toy standards support the production of safer toys in the marketplace," said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. "Parents and toy shoppers also always need to be vigilant by choosing age-appropriate toys and keeping small parts, balls, and balloons out of the hands of young children." That's because toy-related deaths involving children under age 15 rose to 17 in FY2010, up from 15 in FY2009, and nearly half of them were attributed to choking on balloons, small balls, and rubber balls. The report said about 181,500 children younger than 15 were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments due to toy-related injuries in FY2010.

Non-motorized scooters continue to be the category of toys associated with the most injuries, frequently involving lacerations, contusions, and abrasions to children's face and head.

CPSC's tips for consumers shopping for toys this season are:

  • Children can choke or suffocate on deflated or broken balloons. Keep deflated balloons away from children younger than 8 years old. Discard broken balloons at once.
  • For children younger than 3, avoid toys with small parts that can cause choking.
  • Riding toys, skateboards, and in-line skates go fast, and falls could be deadly. Helmets and safety gear should be worn properly at all times and should be sized to fit.
  • For children under 6, avoid building or play sets with small magnets. If magnets or pieces with magnets are swallowed, serious injuries and/or death can occur.
  • Once the gifts are open, immediately discard plastic wrappings or other packaging on toys before they become dangerous playthings, keep toys appropriate for older children away from younger siblings, and make sure that adults supervise charging batteries, because chargers and adapters can pose thermal burn hazards to young children. Some chargers lack any mechanism to prevent overcharging, the agency warns.

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